Intel buys cluster-computing software

The chipmaker agrees to buy a high-performance computing software group from German company Pallas.

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Intel has agreed to buy a high-performance computing software group from German company Pallas, the chipmaker's latest effort to use software to let customers squeeze more performance out of its processors.

The acquisition agreement was signed in August, a source familiar with the deal said. Intel spokesman Scott McLaughlin confirmed the move Tuesday and said the deal is expected to close in September. McLaughlin declined to disclose financial terms of the deal.

Pallas has several products for monitoring and improving the performance of clusters, or large numbers of lower-end systems linked to form what amounts to a single supercomputer. Pallas has consultants that help other companies modify their software to run on clusters.

The company also is finalizing the development of a product that will make it easier to use grids, supercomputers created by pooling together different organizations' computers and storage systems.

Intel will acquire the 23-person group and its software, McLaughlin said. No layoffs are foreseen. The Pallas group will become part of Intel's software and solutions group.

Systems using Pallas' high-performance computing software include the top four systems in a list of the 500 fastest supercomputers, McLaughlin said. Customers include DaimlerChrysler, T-Mobile and IBM.

Intel sells basic software such as compilers that translate human-written software into instructions that Intel-based computers can understand.

But the chipmaker hasn't always had success with software efforts. Its Virtual Interface Architecture for running programs on a network of distributed computers, for example, wasn't widely adopted, said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff.

"It is certainly in Intel's interests to push clusters of smaller boxes because it tends to favor mostly Intel architecture-type boxes; they just don't really have the right touch points with end users to push software," Haff said. "IT managers go to their system vendors or third-party software companies for this sort of thing, not (to) Intel."

Intel's software group has been at work recently on a technology called the IA-32 Execution Layer, or IA-32EL, which Intel expects will make its new Itanium processors better able to run older software written for Pentium or Xeon processors.

McLaughlin declined to comment on how Intel would handle Pallas' future products, but he said the chipmaker wants to continue with Pallas' current products. "We intend to utilize all their technology, expertise and future high-performance computing software tools," he said.

Intel will not acquire the company's security and data management software groups. Pallas is a member of the ExperTeam group of information technology companies in Germany.